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Barcelona attempt to counter Thiago interest

Alex Grimm

Both Manchester United and Chelsea are rumoured to be chasing Barcelona youngster Thiago Alcantara, whose buyout clause has been lowered to very affordable levels as a result of his lack of playing time last season. Thiago is one of the foremost talents La Masia's produced in recent years, and naturally the hints that he might be on the way out will be cause for concern for his current club.

A similar situation arose two years ago, when both Arsenal and Chelsea stumped up the money to activate the then-20-year-old's release clause, only for Thiago to sign a contract extension with Barcelona instead of heading to England. It seems as though the Catalans are hoping for a similar outcome this time around -- according to Miguel Delaney at ESPN, they're now attempting to convince him to stay by offering him significantly increased playing time.

I suspect that they'll be less successful this time around. Playing time guarantees were written into the deal negotiated in 2011, and they haven't been met -- hence the radically reduced release clause -- and the presence of both Cesc Fabregas and Neymar (who will push Andres Iniesta back into midfield) complicates the situation significantly. It's far from out of the question that Thiago would consider Manchester United, who are currently running a midfield of Michael Carrick and His Incompetent Friends, a more natural home.

As far as Chelsea are concerned, Thiago going to Old Trafford would be a major, major pain. I'm not sold on the Blues acquiring him unless Jose Mourinho can convince him that he'd be better off playing in a more withdrawn role than his favoured attacking midfield, because otherwise he comes into direct competition with Oscar, Juan Mata and Kevin de Bruyne. But he has to be kept away from Manchester United, who suddenly become far, far more dangerous with a young midfielder like Thiago pulling the strings.

So, barring an unlikely intervention by the Blues themselves, I think Chelsea fans should be pulling for some heroic fast-talking by the higher-ups at the Camp Nou. Will it succeed? Probably not, no -- but Thiago did fall for it last time, so there's some hope.

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